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Washington Post slams Sanders's anti-nuclear stance. Beyond Nuclear responds

On August 25, 2019, the Washington Post published an editorial condemning Independent Vermont senator, Bernie Sanders, also a Democratic presidential candidate, for, among other things, excluding nuclear power from his version of the Green New Deal. 

Specifically, Sanders had declared in his $16.3 trillion climate plan: 

Phase out the use of non-sustainable sources. This plan will stop the building of new nuclear power plants and find a real solution to our existing nuclear waste problem. It will also enact a moratorium on nuclear power plant license renewals in the United States to protect surrounding communities. We know that the toxic waste byproducts of nuclear plants are not worth the risks of the technology’s benefit, especially in light of lessons learned from the Fukushima meltdown and the Chernobyl disaster. To get to our goal of 100 percent sustainable energy, we will not rely on any false solutions like nuclear, geoengineering, carbon capture and sequestration, or trash incinerators.”

We took issue with the Washington Post’s claim that Sanders’s exclusion of nuclear power made his proposal “unnecessarily expensive,” especially given the fact that nuclear power is, itself, wildly expensive and relies for its continued existence on massive subsidies. 

Indeed, a 2019 German study from DIW — High-priced and dangerous: nuclear power is not an option for the climate-friendly energy mix — shows that every single nuclear power plant ever built was financially unsuccessful. As the study states, “the authors carried out a descriptive empirical analysis of all 674 nuclear reactors used to produce electricity that have been built since 1951.” They found that the average 1,000MW nuclear power plant showed an economic loss of $5.2 billion.

The Post published our letter. As not everyone can open Washington Post links, which are sometimes unavailable to non-subscribers, we are providing a link to a PDF version. Here also is a PDF of the original Washington Post editorial.

In the letter, we mention Plant Vogtle 3 and 4, the only new nuclear power reactors currently under construction in the US, and with a still uncertain outcome. All other proposed new nuclear reactors (under the always falsely advertised “Nuclear Renaissance”) have been canceled. The Vogtle costs have continued to balloon -- up from the original 14 billion U.S. dollars (equal to around 6,200 U.S. dollars per kW) in 2013 to an estimated 29 billion U.S. dollars in 2017 (equal to around 9,400 U.S. dollars per kW). (For a comprehensive look at the delays, cost over-runs and prospects for completion, see this article from GreenTechMedia).

Consequently, the nuclear forces have abandoned the “renaissance” strategy, and are now focused on keeping the still operating, old, dangerous and degraded nuclear power plant fleet alive. That’s why Sanders’s insistence on a nuclear license renewal moratorium is so welcome and important.

(Headline photo by Michelle Prevost made available by photogism is licensed under CC BY 2.0 )